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Lugh Ildánach

Communists Engaging in the Capitalist System

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The following is a piece put together to try and formulate some guiding principles about how to engage with the capitalist system, particularly in the circumstances of a small group like our own which is so removed from state power.  Those few communist or socialist groups who do hold aspects of state power do, I believe, ultimately have the same issues/dillemmas when directing their economic sphere of influence, although the dynamics of the two situations are very different.



Engaging in the capitalist system – Guiding Principles


As Communists we are diametrically opposed to the commodifcation of labour. We therefore strive at all times to create, enhance and support projects which are based on labour which remains under the control and ownership of the proleteriat.


With this aim in mind, we must however retain a strategic approach.


As well as being under the control of workers, labour must be organised in a way that challenges the wider structures of capitalism. Without such organisation, small decommodified projects remain isolated, vulnerable to attack from the physical and economic forces of capital and are unable to fulfill their full revolutionary potential. Such smaller projects may however be useful at a local or limited level, for example in building communities of activists, or for creating physical, mental and spiritual space outside of capitalist domination.


We also adopt a pragmatic approach. You cannot remove revolutionary principles from the daily struggle to improve the lives of the proletariat. Projects must be capable of enhancing the lives of those who are involved. Until such time as there exists a really existing communist economic alternative for the proletariat, projects will inevitably involve some degree of commodification. As so many spheres are dominated by commodification, in some cases the only immediate way to improve the lives of the proletariat is by obtaining money or other goods in which labour has been commodified.


If we recognise this commodification, we can both be alert to the harmful effects that commodification has in order to avoid these wherever possible, and we can devise strategies to reduce and ultimately remove the dominance of commodification.


This approach requires vigilance and discipline at all stages. We must be vigilant that the effects of commodification do not ultimately dictate our actions over and above our revolutionary communist principles. We must be disciplined to ensure that we do not indulge in the excesses of capitalism that present themselves, and also act fully in the knowledge that any immediate benefits that we obtain (as individuals and as a party) from engaging with commodification may at any time be removed should the revolution require this. Structures must be put in place to ensure that personal gain and profit are kept in check, and also at a Party level that there must be structures to ensure that the Party itself does not become corrupted by the capital that it tries to utilise. Moreover there needs to be a personal and party revolutionary discipline throughout, without which no structure is ever safe from the corrputing effects of capital.


We must also recognise the nature of capital itself. Capital is the embodiment of labour stolen from its rightful owners. We should at all times be seeking to secure as much capital from the capitalist class. But what should we do with these spoils? These spoils are obtained at great personal sacrifice, of either the revolutionaries who put their lives and liberty on the line to attain it, or through the toil and humiliation of the process of commodification of labour.


Only by the destruction of the system will those who rightfully own this labour be able to enjoy it fully. However, the everyday lives of those struggling must be improved by our struggle, and we must build a concrete example of our ideals in order to inspire and motivate people towards our cause. Captured capital must be deployed in these three ways in a way to build the revolution and to undermine and ultimately destroy the capitalist system. The deployment of this captured capital must at all times be strategic and carefully planned. However, it must also be recognised that this newly attained capital can assist in the capture of yet more capital, much in the same way that a guerrilla who has just captured some guns from the enemy may well use them to capture further and more advanced weapons.


Capital is captured from the enemy in a number of ways. Various groups have concentrated on activities that have been proscribed by the capitalist rulers. These activities are often hard for the capitalist class to regulate and can often provide relative easy access to capital. These activities also often have negative social effects and can be used to criminalise political movements.


However, the capitalist system is designed to facilitate the lawful accummulation of capital. Groups with more advanced and developed fund raising operations have quickly developed ways of turning the gains of their proscribed activities into lawful “investment”. Why would a revolutionary risk death or imprisonment through engagement in armed robberies, or why would one advance the destruction of communities by engaging with harmful drugs, when there are so many lawful ways of making money? True, lawful activities are taxed. However, the tax avoidance practices available under capitalism are surely much more effective than money laundering required to deal with unlawful gains.


We do not condemn revolutionaries for engaging in proscribed activities, even ones which have an immediate harmful effect on individuals and their communities. If such activities are driven by a realistic long-term benefit to those communities, they can be justified. In the same way, engaging in commodification can be justified if it ultimately assists a wider struggle against commodication. The same principles apply when engaging in armed struggle, knowing that individuals and communities will suffer through that struggle. The legality within the capitalist system is irrelevant to us as revolutionaries, other than on a tactical basis. The difference between us and those others who deal in commodification, is that we do not accept that its legality gives it legitimacy. The legitimacy in our actions comes solely from our revolutionary intent and praxis, without which commodification of labour remains an affront to human dignity.


We must be aware of every injury that our engagement with the current economic system causes. We do not participate in this injury lightly, but only after careful deliberation and in the convinced belief that progress towards the destruction of capitalism is not possible without it.


In engaging with the system we must also use every opportunity to organise and educate a revolutionary proletariat. When and how this can be done will be different in each particular circumstances. Some projects will require clandestine economic operation which cannot be disclosed to the wider public at this time without jeopardising the revolutionary intent, whilst other projects will readily present themselves as material to be used in propaganda, and to act as rallying points for mass struggle. Where activities must be clandestine due to their nature, there must be extra vigilence and discipline to ensure that ulterior motives or personal gain do not obscure the revolutionary objective.


To advance a revolutionary programme we must gain access to sufficient means of production. As communists we know more than anyone that under the current system hard work is never its own reward. The masses toil without reward.  As a class we have been dispossesed. To gain our rightful inheritance we must start to take it back. We must therefore engage in an economic and strategic war against this system, using all means at our disposal.  To do otherwise is to surrender all economic life to the enemy and to essentially restrict ourselves to activity that allows us to be criminalised.





  • Capture capital from the enemy by any means possible, and with the least risk possible to the revolutionaries

  • Deploy that capital in the best way to undermine the political system and build the revolution, either by:

    • using it to gain more capital from the enemy

    • enhancing or alleviating the immediate living conditions life of the organised proletariat

    • using it in strategically and tactically planned projects of decommodified labour

    • using it in projects which undermine and destroy the capitalist system of domination

  • In determining which way to deploy capital we must always be strategic, and weigh the negative effects of any required commodification against the tactical and strategic gains to be had.

  • We must at all times have structures which guard against personal gain and political corruption

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